Someone once said that "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." This means you have to take lots of pictures to get better in the craft. I don't agree with that. Improving your photography as well as videography skills is often compared to an athlete training. The athlete regularly repeats a number of exercises for certain muscles. Musicians are the same. They train their abilities to play musical instruments by repeating sound sequences and so do singers. All these disciplines repeat and repeat what they do. It has to be the same with photography, right?No. It's not.
Who Said That?
Henri Cartier-Bresson said the statement above. He used to practice candid photography and he was not practicing how a correct exposure is made. He was not practicing posing and directing on a daily basis. He practiced photographing the right moment, not pressing the shutter lots of times. That's why I don't agree with the wording of his statement. It's not training yourself to press the button, but rather training yourself when not to take a photograph.
How To Properly Train Yourself
I started photography as a business; it wasn't a hobby. I purposely decided I would learn the craft in order to make it my business. I learned the basic theory, then I bought a camera. In the beginning my practice was to just go out and take lots of pictures, as they advised. I shot plenty of garbage and had very few keepers. My main question was "What makes the better pictures that I happen to get sometimes, 'better'?", and also, "How can I repeat them?" The answer to that question was: "Stop taking pictures. Sit down and look at photographs and try to understand them."
Writers get better by reading, not by writing. They train their imagination by repeating the process of absorbing stories. They don't just write sentences every day. Their tool is their imagination and that's what they need to train. An athlete's tools are their muscles and they train them directly by repeating exercises. Writers train their imagination and then it flows through the pen; their tool.
After I understood that, I started looking at more and more photographs by professionals that I admired. I tried to understand why they lit them like they did or why they posed the people like they did, or why they chose that camera angle. Instead of taking lots of photographs I started to plan to take just one picture. I wanted to know the technical process ahead of time so I knew exactly how to execute it. Then I repeated the process of understanding photographs and re-creating them. And again. And again.
Having done that, many of my first 10,000 photographs are still in my portfolio.
365 Projects And Similar
Such projects are aimed towards the number of pictures being taken. They do not train the skills of a photographer to create masterpieces. They train them to press the shutter even if they don't know why. So, what's the point?
You are better off planning a project for one month and creating a single masterpiece than 30 mediocre snapshots. Nobody will notice your snapshots, but how about the masterpiece?
Improving your photography is not about the repetition of pressing the shutter regularly. It's about constantly training your mind to understand, visualize and plan the technical execution of every visual piece of art. Watch lots of visual stories and learn to read them; train your eyes and imagination.
Stop taking pictures on a regular basis.